Courtesy Reuters

The British Flag on the Caspian: a Side-Show of the Great War

THE titanic struggle in the west left the British public scant leisure for following the fortunes of the "side-shows." Yet the "side-show" in Asia produced results that were important and far-reaching. From another point of view they were essentially dramatic, and proved British officers and men the peers of the Englishmen who made the reign of Queen Elizabeth illustrious.

The capture of Bagdad in March, 1917, was rightly held to be a great achievement, and the results were felt far and wide; but in the very same month the collapse of the mighty Russian army was started by the issuance of the notorious Army Order No. 1, which struck at the root of military discipline by laying down that the Russian soldier need no longer salute his officer. As the months passed, it gradually became certain that Russia had ceased to count in the World War, and in England even the man in the street began to discuss the ominous movement of German divisions from the Russian front to the west.

What was not realized, except by a few, was that the collapse of Russia destroyed the main protection of the Indian Empire, which was the chief objective of the Germans in Asia. It was, indeed, true that the southern route across Persia, which had appeared to the Germans so promising in 1916, had been closed by the capture of Bagdad. But now a much better northern route was available, via Batum to Baku on the Caspian, and thence, across that inland sea, to Krasnovodsk, Askabad, and Tashkent. At this period the number of German and Austrian prisoners in Central Asia exceeded one hundred thousand, and had the German staff been able to regain touch with this large body of veterans and form even two divisions, utilizing for the purpose Russian munitions, equipment and transport, an advance into Afghanistan would have compelled the Amir to range himself on the side of the allies of the Caliph. Moreover, upon receiving the signal from Kabul, the

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